Pastor's office hours: Time to cut back?

August 27th, 2014

In a recent sermon, Pastor Andy Stanley stated that every church has a gravitational pull to be a church that serves only its members — a pull to be a church for just insiders. That's because 100 percent of the complaints, suggestions, critiques, and comments come from people who are already there — already attending the church. The leadership team feels pressure to bend towards a lot of those complaints and suggestions and in turn they become more inwardly focused than outwardly focused. So the church becomes more and more friendly to the "insiders" because we put a lot of effort into meeting the needs of the "insiders." It's easy to ignore the "outsiders" — those we're trying to reach — because they have no voice within the walls of the church. And they have no voice, no suggestions, and no complaints because they aren't present.

One way churches continue to force their pastors to bend inwards is their insistence on office hours. Some folks feel that the pastor is not doing her duties if she isn't in her office when they drop by on a whim. As if every pastor should be waiting around in their offices for people to drop on by so they can answer questions about mind-numbing things of the church. (Don't get me wrong, I've had powerful ministry moments when people stop by unannounced. But, in my personal experience, those are far and few in between.)

In the age of smartphones and being able to reach pastors almost anywhere (also not the healthiest of things) why do churches feel the need for their pastors to be secluded in a room in a building when life is happening all around the community? Who does that benefit? Who are office hours for, anyway? I'm inclined to think that office hours are more for the already-church members than anyone else. But, serving in a small church, I can go days without seeing anyone in my office.

Whether good or bad, the pastor becomes the biggest representative of the church. The reputation of a church often hangs on the reputation of the pastor. If you truly think your pastor is wonderful, then why are you keeping him in the office and not allowing other people to get to know him?

That's not to say that the pastor should forgo office hours completely. Some time in the office is important. But the church should encourage the pastor to get out more. If your pastor talks about inviting people to church, hold her accountable by making her go in the community and start connecting with non-church members and invite people to partner with what God is doing in your faith community. Let your pastor engage with people of the community more by perhaps letting him set up shop at a local coffee cafe to get the feel of the people who live in the area. Encourage your pastor to be a little league coach or join book clubs. In other words, be willing to share your pastor with the community instead of hoarding him.

Bishop Carcaño, my bishop of the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church shared with our churches this message:

Growing the church takes great intentionality. We have to be willing to share Christ Jesus with others and invite others to consider following Jesus as Lord and Savior. This won’t happen if the primary focus of our church life is us. This does not mean that we cease to provide ministry to those who are already members of the church, but it does mean that we make others the priority.

Let's be intentional in making others the priority. Let's be less consumed with getting people to come to our churches and more focused on bringing church to the people of our communities.

I was told by a church coach that when we're appointed to a church, we're not just being appointed to that local church but to that community as well. Paraphrasing John Wesley, "The world is our parish." And in order to live that out, the pastor needs to spend less time in the office and more time in the community.

comments powered by Disqus